Health care in America today works very well for some Americans, moderately well for most Americans, and not well or not at all for too many Americans. My goal is to preserve the best of American health care while closing the unacceptable gaps in availability, affordability, access and quality. It is critical to get this right for current and future generations, and I believe we need a renewed national debate, including within Congress, on how best to do so. This is why it is critical for Congress to focus on the Affordable Care Act, prescription drug prices and medical research.
Protecting and Improving the Affordable Care Act
In the big picture, I am committed to achieving access to affordable, quality health care for all Americans. Despite the advances that have been made under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and, in Hawai‘i, under the Prepaid Health Care Act, there are still tens of millions of Americans who are uncovered and tens of millions more who are insufficiently or unaffordably covered. And there remain unacceptably high costs throughout much of current health care, especially prescription drugs, as well as attempts to reverse the ACA’s prohibition on discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions.
This is why I have consistently voted for the legislation that will increase affordability and reduce premium costs for consumers, prevent “junk plans” or short-term plans that are not required to comply by the ACA’s consumer protections for pre-existing conditions or include essential health benefits. In addition, I have supported funding for community-based organizations (navigators) that provide a critical source of unbiased information on coverage options for consumers who have questions.
Prescription Drug Prices
I believe that prescription drug prices in the United States are too high and that we must act to control them so people don’t have to choose between health care and food, housing and other necessary expenses.
This is why I cosponsored and voted for the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate prices on up to 250 of the costliest drugs to Medicare that lack competition from at least one generic or biosimilar on the market. In addition, this legislation would create a maximum price for any negotiated drug to ensure that Americans are not paying more than what pharmaceutical companies charge for the same drug in other countries. Lastly, this legislation would also allow our kupuna to access dental, vision and hearing coverage through Medicare with the cost savings associated with negotiating drug prices. Negotiating drug prices isn’t just good for lowering the cost of drugs for patients, but it can lead to savings that means we can invest in other healthcare needs.
I believe full funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other related agencies is necessary to invest in critical healthcare research and for our country to stay at the forefront of medical innovation. As a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, I worked to secure over $41 billion in the NIH funding bill in Fiscal Year 2020, an increase of $2.6 billion over the prior year. I will continue to champion the NIH so that we can support scientific discoveries to improve health and save lives.